But Brexit could take a bite out of future returns from UK-listed companies, says report

UK-listed firms paid record dividends last year, thanks to rising profits, but a report warns that shareholder payouts could take a big hit if Brexit goes badly.

Companies listed on the UK’s main market shelled out £99.8bn in dividends over 2018, marking a 5.1% rise from a year earlier, according to the latest dividend monitor report by Link Asset Services.

That all-time high was driven by a rise in profits, better-than-expected special dividend payments and the effect of currency exchange rates. Companies with international operations benefited from a decline in the pound as earnings in foreign currencies including the US dollar were worth more when translated into sterling.

Even in the fourth quarter, when dividends are usually low, payouts jumped 15.6% to £17.3bn.

British American Tobacco made the largest contribution after it paid £900m to shareholders. However, it was the mining sector that experienced the largest rise in dividends, which jumped 66% to £11bn.

Banks, including Standard Chartered, also raised dividends, with Royal Bank of Scotland announcing its first dividend since its government bailout in 2008. It amounted to £240m, £150m of which was pocketed by the Treasury as the UK taxpayer remains its largest shareholder at 62.3%.

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